The story you want and the story you get. Part one.

You have been faithful to God in every possible way. Everyone knows that you are the one to depend on for honest, upright work. Both in your construction work and in your God work. But you don’t think about how good you are, you just show up and do good work because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s time to get married and you follow the lead of your parents, of the community. There is a girl who is well-thought of. You get engaged, with the wedding to be scheduled when you have prepared a place for her.

And then one day she suddenly says she’s going to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who lives in the hill country, a few days away. She looks a little flustered, but when she tells you that Elizabeth is pregnant and needs help, you wish her well and go back to building.

Living the story that you want.

Until there is a rumor in town. Someone has been to Elizabeth and Zachariah’s town. They saw Mary. She’s put on weight in a very particular way.

You ignore the storytellers as you always have. Until one day. One day you hear from a reliable source that Mary is pregnant. She’s 2 or 3 months along.

We can guess what we might feel, but we cannot guess what Joseph felt initially or how long he felt it. We don’t know whether he drove a hammer through the wall of the room he was building for the two of them. We don’t know whether he went to the cliff at the edge of the town of Nazareth and screamed.

All we know is the result of his emotional and spiritual processing.

He didn’t want to shame Mary, let alone do what the law allowed and have her killed. Because being engaged, it was as if they were married. The pledge meant faithfulness and pregnancy meant unfaithfulness.

But he was a righteous man but not self-righteous. He finally arrived at the decision to send her away, to tell her not to come back to Nazareth. To divorce her quietly. It was, culturally, a pretty remarkable step.


There’s the story we want. There’s the story we get.

We want the healing. We get the cancer.

We want the relationship. We get the rejection.

We want the right thing. We are in the wrong things.

And then.

And then there’s the story that God tells.